I usually turn to the New York Times for news from the world of political proctology. But today, the Times’ focus is urological, so once again the paper seems to be all wet. Let’s look at this piece of reporting (“Urologist Posts His Politics on His Florida Office Door”) by Damien Cave:
Doctors take the Hippocratic oath promising to do no harm, but once that requirement is fulfilled, do they have a right to choose patients based on politics?
One Republican urologist outside Orlando has stirred up a tempest by suggesting that they do. A sign hanging this week in the office of Dr. Jack Cassell clearly states a preference for patients who agree with his opposition to the president, and to the recently passed health care overhaul.
“If you voted for Obama,” says the taped-up sign, “seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now. Not in four years.”
Perhaps it was just a matter of time before the partisan rancor surrounding health care found its way into patient care.
Okay, so. You read the story, in which the Times’ intrepid Damien Cave apparently tries to visit a urologist. For all the urologist knows, he may be a victim, maybe a man of incontinent sorrow. But at Dr. Jack Cassell’s office, he meets only with the “partisan rancor” and intolerance the Times routinely associates with Obama’s critics.
But let’s look at this a layer at a time:
1. Is what Dr. Jack Cassell does with respect to urinary tracts really any different than what the New York Times does with its approach to journalism? I mean, is an Obamacare supporter less welcome in Cassell’s office than, say, an Obamacare opponent is in the pages of the New York Times?
The difference, as we see later in the piece, is that Cassell would not refuse to give people fair treatment no matter their politics, because to do so, he told another newspaper, “would be unethical.” Can the Times say the same? Let’s look even closer.
2. The paper suggests that maybe Dr. Cassell is cynically putting the needs of his patients second to his political views. “His wife is a Republican candidate for the local county commission,” reports Cave. “And Mount Dora, where Dr. Cassell’s office is located, is a town of 10,000 that leans conservative, so perhaps his position is just smart family politics.”
But wait. Cave also reports that the “town of 10,000 that leans conservative” is represented in Congress by Alan Grayson, “a Democrat who was one of the boldest supporters of health care in the House.” Grayson, Cave says, “represents the neighborhood where Dr. Cassell’s office sits.” Some lean; some tilt.
3. Grayson told the Times, “I think it’s outrageous that someone would try to press his political agenda.” Both Democrats and the Times seem to many to have some expertise in trying to press political agendas, of course. Grayson, whose outrage is described by Cave as “characteristic” – a display of even-handedness that must have escaped detection somewhere in the Times’ bend-and-twist editorial process – says he is “disgusted” by the views of his constituent. And so, we may fairly infer not just from this piece but from several decades of similar reports, is the Times.
Cassell, on the other hand, may exercise free speech by posting a sign suggesting Obamacare supporters take their piddling problems elsewhere, but at least he isn’t “disgusted” by them, their views, or even their bladder problems. How tolerant is Grayson (or the Times), compared to Cassell? Just asking: Would Grayson or Pinch Sulzberger be “disgusted” if someone holding unfriendly political views walked into his office and urinated in a cup? I’m saying, “probably, most definitely.” Cassell, on the other hand, would treat them.
4. And what kind of reporting is this? The headline says Cassell’s views are posted on “his Florida office door.” But Cave reports the sign is found – what? hanging? taped? – inside the doc’s office. Did Cave see it? Did his stringer, Amy Green?
Cave says that when he (or Green) went to Cassell’s office, apparently sometime around 4 on a weekday, it was closed. So the Times’ reporters apparently didn’t actually see the sign purportedly posted on a “Florida office door” or mounted somehow on the wall of Cassell’s office – other than perhaps by seeing a photo of it supplied by none other than Alan Grayson to the Orlando Sentinel. Is the Times reporting second-hand news? Or are they just manufacturing “news” at the behest of a vehement Obamacare supporter? It seems, based on a reading the Sentinel’s account of Cassell’s sign, that Grayson even inspired Cave’s lede, oath and all.
Either way, this seems like a voiding issue to me, so if Cave had actually gone to the door of Cassell’s office, he was in the right place. (However, if being unable to see a specialist on a walk-in basis surprises the Times, wait until urology is “reformed” under Obamacare.)
5. Here’s another interesting point: “Civil rights law prevents discrimination based on sex or religion, but experts say that political differences are not specifically protected – consider it a pre-existing condition that can still be used for patient filtering.” The Times should be grateful this interpretation applies to what it suggests is Cassell’s discriminatory speech aimed at some patients, since it amply described the Times’ own views aimed at many readers. In fact, it’s fair to say, I think, that the Times has pissed off far more people than Cassell ever will.
And our Times reporter? What will he do if he ever gets in to see Cassell about his problem? Depends, of course, if he has one. Or he could always do what Alan Grayson and millions of puppy-owners do, and stand on what is reported in the New York Times.